Greg van Eekhout’s Cog (2019)

Cog

Greg van Eekhout’s Cog (2019) is a surprisingly philosophical middle-grade novel featuring emotionally proficient robots, maniacal scientists, and hotdog eating challenges. The title character, Cog, was created to help scientists research cognitive development. On the outside Cog looks like a brown-skinned twelve-year-old boy, but he’s all metal and wire on the inside. Continue reading

Sarah Jean Horwitz’s The Dark Lord Clementine (2019)

The Dark Lord Clementine

Sarah Jean Horwitz’s The Dark Lord Clementine (2019) follows twelve-year-old Clementine Morcerous on a journey of self-discovery that weaves magic and melancholy into an epic tale sure to delight readers. Most of the action takes place in and around the family’s desolate castle. Clementine knows nothing about her absent mother and her father, Lord Elithor, is a cold and angry figure whose evanescent presence haunts the text. Without any siblings or friends, the young protagonist is clearly lonely and yearns for connection. Continue reading

Cordelia Jensen & Laurie Morrison’s Every Shiny Thing

Cordelia Jensen & Laurie Morrison’s Every Shiny Thing shifts between verse and prose as well as between the point-of-view of Lauren, a wealthy girl whose beloved brother moves to a therapeutic boarding school for teenagers on the autism spectrum, and Sierra, a girl whose experienced poverty and is currently placed in a foster home in Lauren’s neighborhood. The girls attend the same private Quaker school and have an at times awkward and uneven but ultimately caring friendship. As Lauren’s friendship with Sierra develops, she is drifting away from her best friend of many years. Continue reading

Zetta Elliott’s The Dragon Thief

The Dragon Thief by Zetta Elliott

The Dragon Thief is Zetta Elliott’s follow-up to her middle-grade urban fantasy novel Dragons in a Bag. Elliott’s second installment picks up where the first book in the series left off, taking readers on a fantastical journey through the culturally diverse streets of New York City as children and elders work together to bring balance to material and magical realms by returning a not-so-little dragon to its home and family.

Dragons in a Bag is told from the point-of-view of Jaxon, a clever and kind boy who discovers magic for the first time and learns to be courageous in the face of otherworldly adversity. Jaxon remains an important character in The Dragon Thief, but he is joined by Kavita, his best friend Vik’s little sister. In Dragons in a Bag, Kavita stole one of the three baby dragons Jaxon was supposed to transport to the magical realm, so he can only transport two dragons. Because of this, his mission is incomplete. In The Dragon Thief Jaxon struggles to find the third dragon so he can keep it safe and reunite it with its family. Continue reading

Lindsay Lackey’s All the Impossible Things (2019)

All the Impossible ThingsLindsay Lackey’s All the Impossible Things (2019) swept me away like a discarded paper bag on a windy day. It’s a beautiful story that is skillfully written and carefully paced with brave characters who love each other the best they can. I enjoyed it immensely and think you will as well.

At the center of the story is twelve-year-old Ruby “Red” Byrd. Red is in foster care after losing her grandmother to cancer and her mother to addiction. Reuniting with her incarcerated mother is a hope that lingers throughout the text, as do reminders of her relationship with her grandmother. This is a little girl who has known fierce love, even if the two women who loved her ultimately couldn’t care for her. Continue reading